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As an agilist, I've heard others talk about how important continuously learning and improving is to the betterment of our work. It's in the agile DNA after all, but what may not be so clear is that we're essentially asking, "Where are my blind spots?"

Those of us who are fighting the good fight to bring better ways of working to the masses with agile can be more effective and influential in changing the status quo and instigating change when we take a moment to look within. The following three areas are a treasure trove of opportunity to continuously improve our ability to influence change around us. 


Are You Engaging the Feeling of Your Thinking?

My first impression of this concept was: "You've got to be crazy - that's not a thing! How I feel is how I feel, period." As it turns out, I was wrong, and it was getting in the way of making realistic observations and acting accordingly. 

I had just boarded a plane, and I was waiting in my seat for the last few passengers to find their seats and put their bags in the overhead compartment, when I found myself narrating the situation in my mind: "Gosh, how are they going to get their bags in the overhead? And dang, now they're going to ask someone to move their seat so they can sit together? This flight attendant is going to get super annoyed."

I could feel the worry building in my chest, and then I caught myself. I remembered this whole engaging in my thinking business and asked myself, "Am I engaged in the feeling created by my narration or is what I am feeling real?" I paused and observed the situation again, this time without the narration, and low and behold I got: "They're capable, grown adults who can take care of getting themselves a seat. Nothing to worry about here."

The latter was a far more realistic observation. So it was true, engaging in the feeling of our thinking is a real thing. Sometimes our assessment of a situation is based in feelings that are actually generated by our thoughts, our stories, our narration or how we're recounting the situation and not the actual truth of the matter. 

Don't take my word for it - try it out for yourself. Next time you have the self-awareness to recognize feelings whirling around in you, whether you're concerned, worried, upset, afraid, etc., check in and ask yourself to simply observe three things. Then see if your observation matches the feelings from the narration you've been telling yourself or others, and respond accordingly.


Open and Closed Communication

I quite enjoy this little video explanation of open and closed communication:

We naturally will move back and forth between open and closed styles of communication. We most certainly are not always open or always closed (above or below the line) and one way is not right and the other wrong. Rather, each style may vary in its degree of effectiveness. 

Self awareness is key, but don't beat yourself up with what you're noticing about you. Have acceptance of where you are and simply choose to switch it. It can be that simple. My favorite way to make the switch is to get curious. I get curious about another person/team/organization's perspective and their goals. The rest of our journey and communication can be messy, but by staying aware and open, you'll be on track to create something new. 


Your Ability to Influence Others is Directly Related to Your Ability to Be Influenced

Have you ever had the experience of imagining yourself walking into a meeting, presenting your case, blowing minds, and immediately getting buy-in and support from everyone in the room? I must admit it sounds nice, but the reality is often quite different. 

The realistic outcome of such a presentation is usually some flavor of healthy skepticism, objections, and questioning, both from the standpoint of general understanding and also from the perspective of what's in it for me and what does this mean for my team, my budget, my initiatives, etc.  

The key to your ability to influence others is your willingness to be influenced by everyone in the room. You can demonstrate this influence by your willingness to listen and consider alternative viewpoints. Being influenced does not infer that you will disregard your objectives and goals, but rather that you are open to taking a different path than you initially imagined to achieve them.

Are you willing to change your mind the very same way that you are asking that others change theirs? Adopt an approach of sitting down side by side, not across the table with arms crossed.  By starting there, you will be far more influential, creative and able to work together with others to make change happen, especially when it matters most. 


It's All Part of Continuous Learning and Improvement

These three areas are pure gold from a continuous learning and improvement standpoint. When we focus on overcoming these blind spots, we have the opportunity to become more curious and accepting of what's really going on below the surface of our initial feelings and assessments. Then, we can respond more effectively to get the changes and results we are looking for, whether we are running a full-fledged agile transformation or coaching teams or individuals.

Keep fighting the good fight for agile ways of working, and don't forget to look within too!

For further reading, check out yourinfinitelifeonline.com

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